Building trust and respect in your grantmaker-grantee relationships, the qualities that lead to the most effective partnerships, means making your operations as transparent as possible. This is essential to narrowing the power gap, one of the Principles for Peak Grantmaking, and the reason we’ve assembled our member-exclusive guide, How to Be Transparent, Clear, and Responsive with Your Grantees.
Through research-based insights, proven tactics, and real-world examples, this resource outlines approaches for achieving three types of transparency: Organizational, Process, and Decision-Making. Here’s a rundown of what each type means.
Organizational transparency is the extent to which a grantmaker publicly shares information about itself, including funding priorities, staff, and current or previous grantees. To better your organizational transparency, review the kinds of information your organization shares publicly and the kinds that it doesn’t, then engage the entire organization in a discussion about why. It’s possible you do not share certain information for good reasons – related to the law, security, the people you work with, polarizing issues, or other concerns – but other information might be held back because your organization simply hasn’t made transparency a priority. PEAK recommends sharing as much as you can while balancing the security and strategic implications of being transparent.
Review the kinds of information your organization shares publicly and the kinds that it doesn’t, then engage the entire organization in a discussion about why.
Process transparency is the extent to which a grantmaker explains and shares their processes relating to applying for, receiving, and reporting on a grant. Improving process transparency means sharing, proactively, details such as how long each step in the grantmaking process takes, milestones within the process, and the level of responsiveness grantees can expect from grantmaking staff. By being transparent about processes, grantmakers set expectations about how and when grantees can expect to hear back from the foundation on decisions, or who to call with questions or for technical help. Among the channels you might use for this are pre-application or orientation sessions, or a dedicated page on your website.
Decision-making transparency is the extent to which a grantmaker clearly and proactively communicates about funding decisions, and other decisions important to a grantee. There are two parts to this kind of transparency. The first is identifying who makes granting decisions at your organization (by name and/or title), and how those decisions are made. Many grantmakers share this information on their website and in their annual report. The second is sharing grant application results (awarded or declined) with applicants in a timely way, including the rationale behind the decisions; this usually requires communicating with each grant applicant individually.
PEAK Grantmaking research suggests that transparency doesn’t just foster greater trust in you and greater accountability on both sides, but empowers grantseekers to provide candid feedback you can use to further improve your practices – a true win-win-win.
Transparency doesn’t just foster greater trust… [it] empowers grantseekers to provide candid feedback you can use to further improve your practices.
PEAK Organization Members can download the complete How-To Guide for more detailed recommendations, including checklists for specific information worth sharing, and how to share it, as well as what a few of your fellow grantmakers have done to become more transparent and responsive.